Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BC NDP left in difficult position defending farmland after supporting ALR removal in Tsawwassen Treaty

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday November 13, 2007

NDP ditch ALR


The Agricultural Land Reserve is the best legislation I ever passed. Without it in place, agricultural land is a developer's heaven and once the parking lots are paved and the streets are in - the land is gone, there is no going back.

- Former New Democratic Party Premier Dave Barrett

There were many speeches in the B.C. Legislature the past few weeks about the importance of stopping farmland from disappearing and the need to protect our food security and fight climate change.

Several NDP MLAs spoke about how critical the Agricultural Land Reserve has been since 1973 and how it has saved countless farms from development.

But when the vote finally came on a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation that will take 500 acres of prime farmland out of the ALR and allow it to be used for Deltaport container shipping expansion, just one NDP MLA said no.

That lone NDP MLA is Michael Sather and for upholding a principle held crucial by his party for more than 30 years he was suspended from the NDP caucus until the legislative session ends.

It takes great courage and conviction to disagree in public with your party's leader and position, particularly to oppose a long-awaited treaty with a First Nation, but Sather has not backed down from defending the ALR and protecting farmland.

"It's pretty stressful overall. I can see why people don't do it very often, but I'm glad that I did," Sather told me.

While some colleagues were unhappy, the MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows says the public has been "totally supportive of the position I took."

And the dissident MLA is also surprised that the NDP caucus didn't at least vote against the section of the legislation that removed the 500 acres from the ALR.

"It thought that it would have been a good time for the caucus to show solidarity with the ALR and against the removal of farmland and I'm disappointed they didn't," he says.

Delta-North MLA Guy Gentner was the only NDP MLA to join Sather in voting against the treaty's ALR exemption section.

NDP MLAs Corky Evans and Harry Lali, who also spoke on the importance of protecting farmland and criticized Premier Gordon Campbell for using the treaty to get the farmland for Deltaport expansion, joined Gentner in abstaining on the final treaty vote by leaving the Legislature.

What comes next is clear. Deltaport expansion onto prime farmland begins soon.

The Tsawwassen First Nation becomes a paid partner in paving.

And an NDP caucus that reversed party policy to support removing farmland in one treaty will face a difficult challenge the next time agricultural land is put on the table in treaty negotiations, as it surely will be.


Anonymous said...

With no one to Vote for to protect non urban BC we the people outside the lower mainland have lost our voices. We need a new middle of the road Party.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it pretty straightforward? Why did Clark make the Nisga'a Treaty key to his administration? Same thing happening here.

BC Mary said...


Thanks for making a difficult subject a bit clearer, Bill.

It seemed plain as day, to me, as soon as the Tsawwassen deal was announced ... it looked like part of the B.C. Rail deal.

A few people jumped all over me for saying that but it's still so plain ... like you said, Bill, those doggone shipping containers will be out there on the potato fields very soon now.


Budd Campbell said...

Bill, I am a bit mystified. Your last link is to the Treaty Commission website. I don't see any reference there to agricultural lands or the ALR, perhaps I need to dig deeper. Is there something specific coming up?

Generally speaking I find it hard to believe that there are many parcels of land that are both government owned and in the ALR. Are there a lot of these properties that I just don't know about? I say government owned, since private lands aren't supposed to be part of treaty settlements.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks Budd - my point with the link is to show that 58 First Nations are now engaged in the Treaty Process.

It is inconceivable that none of them will involve farmland designated in the Agricultural Land Reserve or that future claims or amendements to claims will not.

As former NDP Environment Minister Joan Sawicki pointed out in a 24 hours column I wrote:

Sawicki warned that the Tsawwassen ALR exclusion sets a dangerous precedent for future treaty negotiations because more farmland will be lost if First Nations and land developers target agricultural areas.

"If you were a developer, why wouldn't you now go and find land next to a First Nation in treaty negotiations?" she said. "The snowball effect of this decision is going to be serious - overriding one of the strongest pieces of legislation to protect farmland."

That full column is at:


Budd Campbell said...

I recall reading Sawicki's comments at the time, but they don't answer the question.

Where else in BC is there land that is owned by the federal or provincial governments, and is in the ALR? This property was exceptional, having been expropriated from private farmers in the 1960s in support of the Roberts Bank superport.

The only other example I can think of is some of the old Dominion Experimental Farms, most of which have fallen into disuse.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, bill. Hasn't that dead horse been flogged enough? And not just flogged, but flogged with hyperbole: NDP ditch ALR? All this wailing and knashing of teeth over a few hundred acres?

Anonymous said...

No Bill hasn't flogged this to death. And when climate change hits we'll be mourning the loss of our ALR lands.

And Budd, honestly, wtf?

Buy ALR at ALR price, or a bit over, then include ALR acquired in the treaty settlement. Then ALR lands can be sold by band to developers for premium price.

Although the looming housing crash may buy some time.

Anonymous said...

Move on!
Yeh right, move on. Nothing here, not a thing - just a few acres of prime land - no problem...everything's for sale anyway..

How cynical can one get?

Keep up the good work Bill - when people start saying it's just tiresome what they're actually saying is that you're starting to get some traction on the issue.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about the park flushing incident out at Pt Grey too Bill.

Do you know if Pacific Spirit is a Regional Park?

If it is, I think the provisions of the Local Government Act may well apply.

There are hoops Campbell must go through to get rid of bits of it. Sections of interest are 941.1; 188 and 797.1; as well as 27(2)....

Generally, you can't just wave a wand and say "'poof' - you're not a park anymore!" Sections of the Community Charter may also apply (30.3).

The main point of all this - which I've only begun to look into is that (absent a certain ruse for eliminating the requirement (799 - 1(2) (d)) the normal way for these things to happen is:

a) the electors' approval must be sought; and
b) money must be paid;
c) money which then goes into a designated trust account for the acquisition of other designated parkland...

I think this story may have some legs as well.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks to off-the-rader and the last anonymous for their kind comments.

No I won't stop writing about Tsawwassen and related issues and no, it is far from a dead horse.

On the Musqueam golf course and park deal Premier Gordon Campbell announced - people should be very concerned for several reasons.

- No consultation with citizens
- Removing park land when there was a commitment not to do so
- This is NOT part of a treaty settlement - that is still to come - and may not be taken into account in the treaty negotiations
- Putting important green space on the development table - even if it is decades from now - is a terrible mistake

In answer to the question - The Pacific Spirit Park land is part of a Regional Park - run by Metro Vancouver - formerly the GVRD.

The steps anonymous outlined are, I believe on first blush, necessary to complete the deal.

It's important to realize that the Tsawwassen and Musqueam deals, different as they are, about money and about using legitimate First Nations to meet private interests' goals.

Deltaport expansion doesn't really serve the interests of the Tsawwassen people - the money they will get from paving their newly-acquired farms does that, plus perhaps a few jobs.

The Musqueam people are not going to live on the UBC Golf Course - rich people from around the world will, with Vancouver developers making billions and the Musqueam getting a small cut.

I take no pleasure in being labelled an "extremist columnist" for pointing these important facts out and for arguing that fair and reasonable settlements with First Nations don't have to include paving farmland or developing parks and green space.

But someone needs to say it and if we care about a future province with farms, parks and green space for all our descendants, native and non-native, we have to do something about it now.

Anonymous said...

Some reader wants Bill to identify lands some bands might want. He is not a person hired by any of the three parties identifying possible land. If he knew, which I'm sure he doesn't know, he would be bound not to tell us. Land values are supposed to be figured by the parties, during negotiations. Seems our premier didn't quite get around to that standard.
ALR Land was never much of a issue at any table, side table, public meeting or Regional Advisory Committee meeting simply becuase the rule was et. You want it, lets make a deal. but the deal includes the ALR Regulations. In over 70 maintables I attended representing non Indian Occupiers the words ALR were used in passing. Everyoen even me as a observer knew the ALR lands wern't going anywhere.

ALR is cheap as ALR lands but goes up many times in value if removed. The band got it removed with no effort at all. The port development will get bigger as the ALR land becomes rented out for a lot of cash. Wonder for how many years? Ask who you want to ask, you wont's be told. Who cares if its on a Internation Bird flyway. Hey there is money to be made.

Any band lawyer worth her/ his salary would attempt to pick up extra cheap land under Gordon's method of negotiating. OThere Crown land would cost much more per acre. Willing seller/ willing buyer exists but that too would be most expensive as the seller would know the band is after that land

One wakes up one morning to find that some band now wants parts of downtown Vancouver,or ex military housing west side of the city, or the land under the Legislative buildings. ( Oops we bought that for 35 million dollars a few months ago)I can think of a number of pieces of land locally in the land reserve not far, or next to a reserve. The federal government has little crown land in BC.

But I know of one band that wants most of Royal Roads, the gun range at Naniamo. I know simply because I sat at the tables as those lands were discussed. Did any of you instant experts show up to watch the negotiations?

You all get angry when some band closes a road for a couple of hours to argue ownership.But stay silend as farm land disappears forever.

Ms.James went against party policies in her haste to see a treaty, without due regard, it seems in the ramifications that will be felt elsewhere. It's open house folks. Yet you take the time to bitch about someone and say "Hey it's only a few acres" Dream on.
The NDP fell for a con job except for a very few. The next election might become very interesting for those members who talked the talk but walked rather than Vote their convictions.

We can expect such actions from the Liberals except for a few who voted against the treaty for their own reasons.
Don't blame Bill, blame youselves as more chunks of Agriculatural land fade away.

Denis Love

Anonymous said...

This kind of comment "Ms.James went against party policies in her haste to see a treaty" is so overly simplistic it makes one shudder.

There are two pretty fundamental party policies at play. One, surely, is the ALR. But another is justice for First Nations. So one of those would need to lose out.

The question then becomes, do you vote against a deal which the First Nation in question clearly wants, or do you vote to save a couple hundred acres of farmland?

Can Bill or someone else identify a reasonable position the party could have taken that wouldn't have allowed the Libs to paint the NDP as being "against" treaties?

Anonymous said...

I just love the blatant ignorance of Tielman to continuously gloss over the fact that the Tsawwassen first nation demanded the land be free of all encumbrances in order for a deal to get done here

It’s all well and good for Tielman to play arm chair quarterback and pretend that he has some magic wand he can wave that makes magic deals appear out of thin air, but for the people actually charged with the responsibility of getting the deal done; tough choices had to be made. This is actually one of the first one’s Carole James has made even it was done in a rather cowardly manner after the fact, but still she finally took a side on something.

Tielman doesn’t agree with it; and he would be the first to say he has every right to oppose it and so be it. But the ongoing charade of Tielman’s that suggests simply waving cash to make a deal and ignoring the value of long term job creation and maximizing land use to create economic opportunities is not reflective on reality; but at least I expect it looks good from the perspective of Tielman’s couch.

Anonymous said...


Support the treaty, including the ALR land, but amend the terms so that the Tsawwassen would have to apply to exempt the land from the ALR exactly as any other landowner cum developer would have to do.

That would have been respectful of both the First Nations' aspirations and an acknowledgment of their new status as full participants in the civic and political life of the province - not, once again, as the recipients of special deals structured behind closed doors just for them.

Of course, Campbell and his thugs would have done their worst in the Legislature and passed the thing anyway.

However, the Opposition would have the moral high ground even in a losing position and could have delivered a clear message about the importance of the ALR and the need to move ahead, responsibly, with the treaty process.

As it is, the party just looked divided and ineffectual and the status of agricultural land has now been forever compromised.

This was not rocket science – James folded before she even saw all the bets on the table.

Anonymous said...

for heaven's sakes: it's BOTH. It is NOT ALR versus treaty rights. It is BOTH.

And what? you seriously think this first couple of hundred acres is the only incursion into ALR lands. LMAO.

The Liberals have outplayed the NDP again.

(Although the NDP have been kicking ass in question period).
thank God.

Now maybe Basi-Virk will actually go to court and maybe the NDP will become the next government.

I like to dream.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon 612, my comment was not simplistic, it was a fact. That shouldnt make you shudder, it should make you wake up and see the dramatic position change made by the NDP electged leader, not the party rank and file. Many long time members of that party I happen to know are still shaking their heads by her direction change in policy.

The NDP government developed a lot of policy papers that were public knowledge if the public bothered to read them. Some of us of course had all the differnt papers. The NDP as a political party prior to teaties developed a policy covering the use of ALR lands. Including regulations to protect those lands

"Justice for Indians "was not the issue. (I use the word Indian as that is the legal federal name for aboriginals in this country.) If they wanted that land, even though they all knew it was not available without the regulations, they could have bargained for it, and follwed the process to try to get it removed from the ALR. That didn't happen. Justice for one party is not the issue. Treaties are supposed to be a win win win event for all parties, not some sleight of hand to benefit one of the parties and some company. Our provincial government represented us in the negotiations and has done so for years. Suddenly the port wanted more land and the present provincal government saw a win win for their friends. Hey here's the land you go rent it outto our friend . Forget the fact it was high quality farm land. They had no intention of farming that land. The chief changed her story so often it was getting rather silly.
Your last comment is easy to answer. Here is ALR land, you want it, get it as it's supposed to be under ALR rules. The opposition should have reminded themselves that a treaty could still happen now or later, but they simply would not change their policy on ALR land. I remtioned before that ALR land at any table was never a serious bargaining issue as the policy was as Bill and a few of us have wrote about so often. jJmes could show her resolve to get treaties but wasn't about to throw in the towel and start a run on bits of Agricualtural land around the province. The land was never surveyed as to it's value. Another reason to hold off. Since the band said , often, they would be leasing it out they could have estimated the land value, offered land elsewhere or provided cash. My God, that's what negotiations are all about. My God, the premier spent 35 million on a sort of weird argument about ownership of the land the ledg. sits on. The maps clearly show Sonhees one moving to another place called Songees 2 years ago which is no wehre near the Legislature. I still have copies of those maps in my basement or if interested go see the maps department upstairs in the DIAND buiding in vancouver.
Read the Douglas Treaties while at it where the bands specify the land they figure is their's.
Hell we seem to have money to burn . so lest get off the old saw about Justice for first nations. Denis Love ex SIRAC member and one of few "Watchers of the process."
Over to Bill now to continue the debate, which is really a good thing as so few citizens have so little understanding of what the system is all about. and this after so much money being spent as far back as beofre the Nisga'a settlement does anyone listen or read? The presnt premire was dead against treaties, went to court to argue the validity of the Nisga'a one, had a bining referendum and so on and now suddenly he changed. Why?

Anonymous said...

Trivia question: who started controlled land use in BC? No, it didn't start with Dave Barrett's reserve act in 1973. Bill Vanderzalm tabled a land reserve policy, which allowed variance based on political consensus, and called it the "Green Belt Plan."

To those who don't know Vanderzalm ran for the federal Liberals in 1967. I remember seeing a huge "Vanderzalm for Trudeau" sign on HWY 10 near Cloverdale.

Bill Tieleman said...

As to the last comment, I'm not sure where or when my friend Bill Vander Zalm could have "tabled" a land reserve policy unless you mean suggested it as a candidate or later when he was mayor of Surrey from 1969 to 1975.

The federal election Vander Zalm ran in was the Trudeaumania election of 1968 however.

Budd Campbell said...

My question has not been answered, certainly not by off-the- radar. His scenario of government expropriating privately owned ALR land, then turning it over to another owner, in this case an Indian band, with no ALR designation remaining would be an obvious abuse of power that the courts would not tolerate.

The question stands. Where else in BC is there land that is owned by either the federal or provincial governments and is in the ALR? If the answer is that there are at most a few such properties then the notion that the Tsawwassen Treaty is the beginning of a massive removal of land from the ALR is simply a rhetorical scare tactic. This deal is objectional on its own, whether or not there are more to come, and should be objected to on that basis, not some imaginary wave to follow.

If people here really believed in the ALR, why don't they ask Derek Corrigan about an ALR removal in south Burnaby on which a shopping mall now sits along Marine Way? That might be more to the point. Or do we not want to trouble the great Derek Corrigan because he's a member of the NDP, and besides, he's busy controlling the wheel of his latest Saab motor car? (Or maybe he's moved further up-market to a Mercedes now.)

Anonymous said...

How come there are so many "anonymous" contributors to your blog? Do they lack the conviction of their views or are they just plain gutless?